I know mothers are supposed to love all their children the same, but I can’t help but think they all have a special little spot for their first-born. It’s not that the child him or herself is more special than any of their other children, but rather, what that child represents to the mother is extra special. For women like me, who prayed to be mothers for so long, that first-born represents the end of a long, lonely walk in a barren desert, and an answer to countless prayers. And once that child comes along, after so many years of waiting and wanting, the thought of losing what we desired for so long is almost unbearable.
When my eldest son turned 8 a couple of years ago, I remember thinking he was starting to grow up. And then in the blink of an eye, he turned 9, and I remember thinking that he was already half-way grown. And now this week, he turned 10, and my heart is breaking as if I was about to watch him leave for college. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s in double-digits (something he likes to point out to me often), or perhaps it’s because he is starting to ask questions about adult things, and reading the newspaper and pulling out my recipe books and planning dinner. I am very proud this little boy who isn’t so little anymore, and who I now refer to as my young man.
He’s always been wise beyond his years, asking me questions that I found strangely perceptive for his age. He’s still small for his age, which he comes by naturally, but his mind is growing by leaps and bounds. He’s one of those kids who, by the age of four, already had most things in life figured out, and who studies everything. He knows all the “book answers” and every day is a lesson in putting them into practice.
Since he was five, I have been his school teacher. We sat side-by-side on the sofa five years ago as he sounded out three-letter words to me and we tried to count to thirty together. Today, we still sit side-by-side and I listen as he tries to explain CS Lewis to me, or we tackle mixed fractions together. And each day now, there is always a moment when I look at him and I think, “When did you learn that?”
He is my metric for motherhood. His birthday is my anniversary…the anniversary of when I made the crossing and left that barren desert of infertility behind. And as he counts up to the day that he is fully grown and can leave home and embark upon his own “great adventures,” as he likes to say, for me, every day is a count down to when I have to finally let him go. And maybe if I start preparing my heart for it now, then in the next ten years (or fewer), I’ll be ready for that day. But probably not.
So for now, I enjoy the snuggles that he’s still willing to give, the way he walks beside me and still wants to hold my hand, the fact that he still thinks I can answer all his questions. And as each day goes by faster than the day before, I’ll try to remember what a miracle he is and that, as the doctors said when I carried him, God must really have something important planned for him. Something that will require me to let him go.